The nation's three largest tax store chains, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax, and the American Institute of CPAs all welcomed the proposed regulation of paid preparers by the Internal Revenue Service. Those proposals, which exempt CPAs, Enrolled Agents and attorneys from some major requirements, were released this week by the IRS."We knew this was coming and felt it was the right thing for the industry," said Martha O'Gorman, chief marketing officer for Liberty Tax, which is based in Virginia Beach, Va. She also suggested the chains should find common ground for additional requirements. "We have been playing with the idea of getting together with Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block and formulating some plan to take to the IRS."
The proposals require all paid preparers to register and receive an identification number from the IRS. Preparers are also subject to limited review to see if they have filed appropriate returns and paid any moneys due. But the IRS exempted CPAs, EAs and attorneys from competency tests and additional continuing education requirements that it proposes for other paid preparers.
The AICPA also supported the changes. In a prepared statement CEO Barry Melancon said the proposals would "foster greater compliance with the tax code and better, more reliable service for U.S. taxpayers across the board,” However, he continued that the organization is concerned that examination process for other paid preparers would provide a "certification based on limited qualifications. A new IRS examination process may cause confusion among taxpayers about the relative qualifications of tax return preparers."
The retail chains all reported their professionals receive training and that they believe they face no difficulties complying with the regulations.
An H&R Block statement said, "H&R Block tax professionals already are required to complete hundreds of hours of training and undergo additional testing each year. Our minimum training standards exceed those the IRS will require."
Jackson Hewitt's statement covered much of the same ground, welcoming the regulations and pointing to the tax preparer reading test its professionals must pass and noted they also can access extensive tax law and ethics training materials. "We have exceptional tools in place to monitor our tax preparer training and testing," the statement said. "We continue to take steps in creating, implementing and monitoring training and compliance measures throughout our system."
O'Gorman outlined a similar program utilized by Liberty Tax. During the last tax season, the company implemented a tax preparation certification program. Preparers must pass three levels, Level I in the first year of employment, Level II in the second and so on. The company, she continued has been "Making sure we have the right standards for the basic tax returns."
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